Well 2016 was quite a year.
I know everyone keeps saying that. Guess it was big for lots of people. In lots of ways. But I seriously don’t think there’s been one in my books thus far that even compares. Not sure there’ll be one to follow…
Now I’m not saying there haven’t been major moments in years previous. I’m not saying this was the BEST, and it’s all downhill from here. But so many crazy HUGE life-events all happening in the span of 12 calendar months (okay really like four months, but who’s counting?)…? Well lets just say it’s a bit unlikely it’ll all happen again. Then again, how does the saying go? “Never say ‘never’?”
But just to put it all in perspective here’s 2016 in reprise, bullet-point style (my fav):
- Became first-time homeowners!
- Packed and moved out of our first home/apt we’d lived in for 3 years. Unpacked & moved into our new home for like 10 days…
- Retired from a 12-year career (and 26-year love) as a professional ballerina.
- Had an epic trip traveling (sometimes solo) all over Europe for 5 weeks.
- Renovated our “new” house.
- Packed up our life and stored it all in a shed and two garages (thanks parents!).
- Moved to England!
- Became full-time grad student & full-time housewife/part-time writer.
I guess the only thing we could’ve added was a baby… thankfully the Lord knew our limit!
Needless to say, LOTS of change. LOTS of transitions. Things that, if I’m honest, I’m pretty terrible at.
So we do this thing at my home on New Years. It’s totally a Mr. Bill (my dad) thing. But that said, I’m sure it’s not entirely unique to our household. In fact, I believe it’s quite common…
We all sit down around the dinner table and talk about the previous year – highlights, what we did well, what we could improve upon. And then we talk about our goals for the new year. Notice I did NOT say “resolutions.” We’re a “goals” family. We don’t resolve. We do.
And when we were younger my dad would have my brother and I write it all down (nowadays it more consists of just conversations). He on the other hand would come prepared with an intricate mind-map that looked like part little-kid-spider-web-drawing, part legit-crazy-person-ramblings on a sheet of graph paper. He had all his goals divided into sections: health, career, relationships, spiritual, recreation. And of course there were sub-sections within each category. He still makes them to this day, and I have come to regard them not so much as the O.C.D., Type A, control-freak tendency (which, let’s be honest, they kind of are…) I scorned, but as a work of art. As something I aspire to… somewhat.
And this year was no different (minus the fact that we’re a few thousand miles away).
Ryan and I sat at our dinner/everything table and asked the questions. And as I thought about all that has transpired for both of us this year, all the trust-falls of faith we’ve had to take, all the unknowns and still blurry bits of the future that have yet to reveal themselves, I have to say I’m quite proud.
You see I’m just a chip off the old Mr Bill block. A planner. A goal-setter. A doer. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s in part how God wired me.
But one of the most frightening parts of 2016 was walking into an unknown. Closing one chapter, turning the page and not seeing words or lists, but white space. Blank. Sure there were things floating about in the periphery, but no clearly delineated plan to be executed, steps chronologically written in permanent ink.
I knew retiring, and retiring when I did, was part of God’s great plan for my life. It’s confirmed in me every day. Not a single regret. Not even one. And I also know we are supposed to be here in England for this year. But what exactly the future holds, I cannot specifically say, much to the chagrin of those who ask the dreaded question “so what’s next for you?” There are so many possibilities, so many desires, all written down of course, but no particular path or route has been revealed.
But I’m learning to rest in that. Even to delight in it. Believe me, not something that comes naturally.
As time approached the “page turn,” I spent many a sleepless night seeking God’s direction. Seeking His will. To be outside of it has been, and still is one of my greatest fears in life. But it didn’t matter how hard I prayed, how long I journaled… Nothing. Well no, not nothing… He told me I just needed to trust and follow Him. One day at a time, one step at a time. Was that enough? Was He enough?
How could I say “No.”?
My life. My story. But are they really mine? Have these plans, hopes and dreams been of my making, of my doing, or were they planted in me, grown and cultivated through Divine provision, doors opened, and obstacles overcome? Through miracles from the Master perfectly orchestrated? Everything in my life attests to this, the Truth.
So the only response I could possibly have in that moment, in that question was to put my hand in His and say, “I’m ready. Let’s go!”
Because He is more than enough. Because even in the hardest times, in the darkest places He’s only ever been good. He is only good. He never leaves my side. And He turns darkness into light. And He gives the best gifts.
And since He’s got the plan in His hand, and I’ve got my hand in His, I have the freedom to look up. To look around. To drink in small moments, ordinary moments and really live in them. Live in TODAY. Like never before. To slow down and let it all soak in: the fleeting, the futile, the simple, like the most intoxicating perfume. Because it’s here, it’s now, and it will all be gone, like water slipping through my fingers.
What makes a day memorable? Makes it stick out and stick with you? It’s impossible to remember every single one. So what happens to the ones that like the water seem to pass by silently unnoticed?
As I sat in bed contemplating this, gazing at a cross-stitch hung on the opposite wall, Ryan’s head resting on my chest, my fingers running through his curls, I realized I never wanted to forget this moment. Ordinary, yet nevertheless precious.
But the reality is that there was nothing in particular that set this day apart from any other. No amazing adventure. No epic tragedy. I couldn’t even tell you if it was sunny or cloudy. It will be forgotten with all the rest of the perfectly mediocre days. And yet I came to an astonishing conclusion:
“So if I’m going to forget this…” I thought to myself, “if it’s something that right now I find utterly precious, but won’t remember days or weeks or years from now, then NOW is all I have. So in this moment, let all of me right now celebrate and fully appreciate it, thanking God for the gift this is.”
The gift of the ordinary. The gift of Today. Of seeing the ordinary as extraordinary.
It could be the song of the birds as I walk along the river in to town. It could be the sideways winter light that illuminates a brick building against a stormy slate-blue sky. It could be the smile of an elderly man I make eye contact with on the street.
And yet how many of these moments have I let pass by because I was so focused on arriving at the destination? Achieving the goal? Following the plan? Sticking to the route? Or just trying to figure it out… I never would have developed these eyes to see had my future been laid out before me as I wanted. Had I not had to trust and follow into the white space.
So in this year of seemingly unknowns my goals are simple ones, in bullet-point style:
- Drink more water.
- Read more books.
- Embrace change.
- Find a healthy balance with health.
- Live fully & intentionally each day for God’s glory.
- Let Him lead & look up. Look around.
- Be thankful & celebrate Today.
- Rest in the surrender. Joy in the journey.
I’m learning to embrace the white space. I’m seeing the beauty of it. Giving me these ordinary-celebrating eyes and strengthening my ability to be still and “treasure up all these things and ponder them in [my] heart,” so that when the pages are full of scribbles and endless lists I still know how to look up, look around. And rejoice.
Maybe you’re feeling a bit directionless as you enter 2017, despite persistent prayers and petitions for His plan…? I hope this honest confession gives you strength and courage to stand in the unknown, despite the social and even personal pressures to “have a plan” or “know what’s next.” That you know it is far better to wait on the Lord than to try and forge through the fog. In your striving. In your strength. He has a purpose for everything. And it is always good.
Write down your dreams, hopes and desires. Don’t give up pursuing what God has planted in your heart! But trust His timing. REST in it. And in the meantime, find purpose in cherishing Today while it is here. Soak up the gifts that each one brings and celebrate them in your heart. This is truly living.
Living my fullest life with you all in 2017,